WebStamp February 21, 2018

The Family of Man

Public art in Calgary has been around since the early 1900’s. To help you discover Calgary’s public art WebStamp is going to write a series of articles about the many local public art projects. The Brotherhood of Mankind statues, more commonly known as the Family of Man, is one of those Calgary’s iconic landmarks. The tall group of aluminum sculptures reflects the “Dominance of Man” with raceless and expressionless human children, women, and men extending their hands in a gesture of goodwill and fellowship.

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 Designed and crafted by Mario Armengol for the British Pavilion at Expo ’67 they originally were grouped around British gifts to the modern world, things like language, governmental systems, law, and traditions.  This public art was later purchased at auction by Maxwell Cummings and Sons who donated it to the Calgary Board of Education and they placed them in front of their former downtown Calgary Education Centre and adopted it as their logo.

Without any instructions on how to place the figures, the city staff had to decide how to arrange them. Any conception of how these statues relate to each other is purely in the eye of the beholder. It was finally decided to chose a circular formation, probably to signify comradeship and cooperation. In 1968 sex was still a taboo subject and Calgarians were appalled and shocked when the naked figurines were first installed. As opinions changed over time people found it less offensive.

This year is the 50th anniversary of when the Family of Man arrived in Calgary. In 2015 the City of Calgary Public Art Program began restoration on the senior statues which has seen a dramatic change in its surroundings as Calgary grew. Upon examination, the figures were in good shape and stable on which a good cleaning and replacement of pavers were only required and performed.   

Even though the continued existence of the old Brutal Style architectural structure of the old CBE offices is in question, conditions were placed on the former CBE land to preserve the sculptures associated with any redevelopment of the site. Now that they are a half-century old, these senior citizens should be declared a historic site to help further preserve the famous Calgary iconic landmark, not to mention a wonderful park.   

When your downtown, be sure to wander to 1st Street and 6th Avenue SE and visit this historic downtown landmark and tourist attraction. The Family of Man is a great representation of Calgary, its collectivism, and diversity and it would be awful losing part of our Canadian roots with Calgary and Expo ’67. After enjoying the art, be sure to give us your impression and post a comment with your opinion.

This is the first of a series of articles exploring Calgary’s public art. Be sure to read our next issue where we will continue to explore the many interesting and debatable art projects throughout Calgary. You are encouraged to go out and absorb the ambiance of and enjoy Calgary’s public art. While you are at it, help the local economy and explore the neighbourhood your in. You will be surprised what Calgary has to offer.

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Marinus (René) Verschuren
Marinus (René) Verschuren
Founder of WebStamp
René has been involved in the publishing and printing industry since the 1970s. He has published and distributed a successful 24-page weekly news advertiser with a circulation of 4400 copies. Also for the last 20 years, he has been a printer, plotter, scanner and 3D printer technician and installer. Since High School, he also has worked as a janitor, cabinet maker, building construction, landscaper/designer, computer operator producing microfiche, graphic artist, and webmaster, among many other professions. This qualifies him as a Jack-of-All-Trades with plenty of knowledge in many subjects.
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The Brotherhood of Mankind statues, more commonly known as the Family of Man, is one of those Calgary’s iconic landmarks. The tall group of aluminum sculptures reflects the “Dominance of Man” with raceless and expressionless human children, women, and men extending their hands in a gesture of goodwill and fellowship.